We are always so excited when we get the call to prepare a pitch for a potential piece of new business. But after a jubilant round of high-fives, the excitement gradually subsides when we realize that we have so many questions and ideas to share it’s hard to know where to start to begin to put together a well-balanced plan. It’s the classic Goldilocks’ story – trying to find the bowl of porridge that is not too hot, not too cold but is just right. And without having a formal RFP, it’s even harder to determine what the “just right” is. We tend to want to include every great idea and tactic but as we all know, delivering a novel size plan to a prospective client is not just overwhelming it can be a huge turn-off.

With each new biz pitch, we aim to be more succinct while still delivering our best thinking, continually trying to find the best recipe for the RFP at hand. Recently in seeking inspiration to help prepare for our next pitch, I came across this piece from Richard Griffiths, an industry expert on Brand and Corporate Communications (full article at PRLiberated.com). Here are a few excerpts that hit home with me and may also help you to make that perfect bowl of new business porridge.

Do start with a very simple question – do you really have the relevant experience to win the business? It may be your dream client (and budget) but getting selected can be an initial challenge. Ask yourself tough questions, like ‘does your team really have the experience and credentials that the client will require?’. Knowing when to go for it and when to step back can save a lot of time and heartache – and earn respect from your team. Get to know as much about the client’s business and challenges as you can at this stage.

Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Ideally you will get a chance to interrogate the brief with written questions. But don’t forget that the initial client conversation is a great opportunity to read between the lines and ask the “softer” questions about in-house dynamics and who you need to convince on the client side on the day.

Do accept that your written proposal will be skim-read (or not at all!) The fact is that most proposals will not be read in detail by the pitch selection team in advance. No, they will be skim read but initial assessments of client challenges, tactical ideas that will work and an indication of how the campaign will be phased over time will point to a thought through programme. Think about the one key thing the client needs to achieve, whether it’s press coverage, stakeholder engagement, digital outreach or better PR measurement and focus on the client priorities.

Don’t pretend you know everything. Focus on what you can realistically deliver as an agency for your client. If you can’t do it, don’t pitch it! If the idea hasn’t been thoroughly road tested, there is a real risk of that showing at the pitch – or worse, irritating the client if you win and then can’t deliver. Remember, the best client relationships can last a professional lifetime.

Do remember the pitch isn’t all about you. We know PR people like to talk but do NOT spend all the time talking about yourselves and achievements – instead focus on how your experience might be relevant to the client and enable you to support them through understanding their sector and the challenges they might have selling a PR programme in-house.

Do ground pitch ideas in reality: Even if you do not end up executing the pitch ideas, make sure that from the Big Idea to the smaller tactics, ideas have been checked and checked again. Will they work in reality? Have they been properly costed? Show evidence of how ideas will work, place them in a context of a proper timeline and program and show evidence of why your campaign will work. If there are any watch outs, air them. Clients want the PR programme to succeed but success comes only when you how you have guarded against failure.